Is Stephon Worth The Risk

By Greg Cote
Updated: September 27, 2008

MIAMI — Stephon Marbury carries a reputation of chaos in sneakers. He can be selfish and pouty and bring an ego befitting his nickname: Starbury. He is coming off an injury and unquestionably is a few years beyond his prime.

For sure, one can see why many in NBA circles might regard him as less an answer than an anathema. The Heat should sign him in a minute. If not sooner.

Miami should hope he becomes available — that the New York Knicks release him as expected — because for all of the things Marbury is not (an ideal teammate with a perfect attitude), here is what he most certainly is:

Better than what the Heat has at point guard. Much.

Would Marbury enhance the good vibe in the locker room, lead the chorus of Kumbaya in five-part harmony and add tranquility to the life of rookie coach Erik Spoelstra? Well, OK, maybe not.

But would he make the Heat better? Yes.

He would make the team more talented, more experienced at a vital position and more likely to make the leap from a league-worst 15-67 record back into the playoffs.

Two major caveats are in play here, of course.

First, the Knicks must let him go, as it has been reported they will. Club president Donnie Walsh said he expects Marbury there when the team opens training camp next week, but it is clear a parting is mutually desired. It is clear the negotiating down of the $21.9 million buyout that would be due Marbury is holding up his release.

Second, this presumes Marbury would come here with enthusiasm and willingness. Could he work within a system that will demand defense of its point guard? Could he subjugate his ego to respect a rookie coach in the same way if Hall of Famer Pat Riley were still courtside? In essence, would he play a role? His role would be primarily to 1) never forget this is Dwyane Wade’s team and 2) help rookie Michael Beasley become a star.


If Marbury is willing, Miami should roll dice and go for it, because the potential upgrade is tremendous.

As is, the Heat is set to open training camp in perilous shape at point guard — a situation of even more concern than at center, where Joel Anthony, Mark Blount and Jamaal Magloire compete, but the best option might be using Udonis Haslem as an undersized center.

Miami’s three point guard options show no such safety net:

— Journeyman Marcus Banks, a career backup of negligible renown, is better suited to adding occasional offensive pop off the bench.

— Rookie Mario Chalmers is a promising defender who might be good someday, but today lacks experience and isn’t ready — the Sarah Palin of Heat options.

— Third-year guy Chris Quinn might be the safest option, the most acquiescent to needs, but fails in comparison to the other two if the fundamental question is:

Wouldn’t you rather have the ball in Marbury’s hands?

Marbury, 31, is a two-time All-Star who is said to be fully recovered from January surgery to remove bone spurs from his left ankle. He reportedly has gotten below 200 pounds and calls himself in the best shape of his career.

We might also assume a certain fire to prove his many critics and skeptics wrong.

His last outstanding season was 2004-05, when he averaged 21.7 points and 8.1 assists, with declining performance since in proportion to deteriorating relationships with his bosses, Larry Brown and Isiah Thomas.

Marbury has been ripe fodder for the hungry back pages of the New York tabloids, where everything is cartoon exaggeration. Not to airbrush the warts that are real, but one suspects if Marbury had been the same person doing the same things in Atlanta or Seattle, his national notoriety would be one-tenth of what it is.


He is worth the risk. Miami is assured only two more years of Wade before he can become a free agent. Beasley is new. Shawn Marion is still here. Haslem is among several valuable pieces outside the spotlight. Wade’s questionable long-term future adds an imperative to be as good as possible now.

Add Marbury to this nucleus, and that’s a lot of talent on the floor, a team that might make some noise in the playoffs this season and maybe step up to a serious challenger’s role in 2009-10.

Hard to envision such a leap now, with questions at point guard instead of proof.

Oh, a quick aside to Marbury, in case this deal happens:

Stephon, we know you have preferred a certain uniform number your whole career, but that you would want to fit in and play nice. So once in Miami, to show you know your role, please do not ask for, demand or offer to buy the number you want.

Turns out the 3 already is spoken for here.

Some guy named Wade.